Varsity Caretalyst Clubs mobilize the next generation of leaders to serve the community by creating one-one-one learning opportunities between volunteer and beneficiary.
By Venessa Thor
On a Saturday morning when most university students were sleeping in, a group of young people were slogging and toiling, cleaning out the houses of several lower-income families in Ang Mo Kio and giving the walls a fresh coat of paint. At the end of the day, the aching backs and necks of the NTU Caretalyst club members were rewarded with nothing more than grateful smiles from the families. But the sense of satisfaction at knowing they made a difference in the lives of others, even by a small margin, was more than they could ask for.
Doing home makeovers such as this was just one of the many community service events organized by CityCare’s Caretalyst clubs, set up at the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University.
The Caretalyst Club is akin to a CCA club, where student members in specific leadership roles such as president, vice-president and treasurer are responsible for planning events, from conceptualization to sourcing for sponsors and advertising the event to the student body to gather more volunteers.
In line with CityCare’s mission as a social enterprise to inspire and empower youth to become social change agents, the Caretalyst clubs aim to ignite young hearts to serve the needy in the community. Beyond community service, Caretalyst clubs foster bonds between its members by organising retreats and other team activities.
Set up in 2009, the NUS Caretalyst is one of the most dynamic community service clubs around. With monikers like Project YOLO:Brick Road and Project LOL!, it’s obvious that NUS Caretalyst knows how to engage the youth while serving the community. Project LOL!@MINDSVille, held in October 2012, brought joy and laughter to the intellectually disabled with game stalls, a concert and other attractions.
“I was assigned to look after one of the beneficiaries, guiding her around the different game stalls, and it really opened my eyes to the lives of these people and allowed me to better understand their actions and behavior. It also taught me how to interact with the intellectually disabled,” said NUS Caretalyst member, Mo Xixi.
“This is truly what NUS Caretalyst is here for, to impart this vision to the students at the university, a heart to serve and create a long-lasting impact in our community. That is why I am here in this club. I feel that there is a need to pass this vision to others, so that together we can make an even greater change in peoples’ lives,” said publicity director Germaine Low.
Set up in 2008, SMU Caretalyst is the largest Caretalyst clubs out of all three. To date, the club members have worked with over 500 volunteers and touched 3,200 lives of people in need. Past projects include Packets Of Love whereby volunteers went to the Institute of Mental Health to celebrate the Lunar New Year with the patients. Through singing and art and craft sessions, not only did the patients enjoy themselves, the volunteers also had a learning experience.
Another significant event was Camp YOLO in August, which was a roaring success. “The feedback from many of the campers was that it was the best freshmen camp they had attended, with some of them attending five to six camps that month alone. By making community service fun and engaging, we can attract more youths and develop their passion to give back to society!” said member Sarah Wang.
Set up in September 2012, NTU Caretalyst is the new kid on the block. Despite being just five months old, three events have already been organized, involving 50 NTU students. At its inaugural event, Kids@Flight, 30 special needs children, under the care of volunteers, put their kites to flight at Marina Barrage. It was a memorable outing which reminded the children to let their dreams soar.
“The club has given me opportunities to interact with underprivileged kids and the elderly, which enabled me to put myself in their shoes and do something for them,” said member Winnie Khoo.
“I have learned that it doesn’t take a lot to touch lives. All we have to do is to step out of our comfort zones and step into the beneficiary’s lives. They do not need financial help most of the time; sometimes they just want people who are willing to sit down and listen to them, or play a game with them. The satisfaction of seeing their smiles at the end of the day is really rewarding. It makes all the hard work and sacrifice worth it,” said member Raymond Lum.